Ohio lawmakers debate Medicaid expansion

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The proposed expansion of Medicaid in Ohio is a hot topic among lawmakers, health care providers and patients.

The federal government says starting in January 2014, it will pay 100% of the cost of expanding Medicaid to more of the working poor. It eventually falls to 90% of the Medicaid tab after several years.

Experts say more than half a million people in Ohio would be newly eligible for Medicaid.

Those who are single and make about $15,000 would be eligible, or families of three who make $26,000 a year.

Critics say expanded coverage would be too costly to taxpayers. Supporters say it would make healthcare delivery more efficient in Ohio, and it would mean a lot to patients who have no coverage.

"It's very hard for me to, you know, go to a doctor like a specialist for any major surgery or anything that involves insurance. They will turn you down," said Gloria Arhin who works as a home health nurse.

Crossroad Health Center CEO Sally Stewart says many people in Arhin's situation don't get to see a doctor until their health problems become critical.

"A lot of them don't go to the doctor at all because they can't afford it, so they go to the emergency room instead where it costs probably ten times more than it would cost to go to your doctor," Stewart explained.

Stewart is among a coalition of health care providers urging state lawmakers to approve Medicaid expansion.

In our commitment to balanced news, we reached out to State Representative John Becker (R-Union Township) who says he has concerns about Medicaid expansion.

"Medicaid is widely recognized as perhaps the worst government program ever devised. It is wrought with waste, fraud, abuse, corruption and the list goes on. It's costing taxpayers an enormous amount," Becker told FOX19.

He says Medicaid expansion is troublesome for other reasons.

"I have issues with the federal government reaching into one person's pocket and taking money and giving it to another person. You have this issue of expanding a dependency class. You know, I hate the idea of that as well. I'd rather see people off the government rolls," he added.

Becker says there's a three way split in the Republican caucus on the Medicaid expansion with a third dead set against it, one third in favor of it and another third still undecided.

Legislative approval is needed by September 30 in order for expanded coverage to take place by January 20-14, 2014.

A coalition of Medicaid supporters plans to continue pressing their point with state lawmakers because they believe expanded coverage serves the common good.

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